This Whole New Way To Think About Food Will Empower You

June 18, 2015

We think of food as good or bad. Like, veggies good, sugar bad. Sweet potato good, French fries bad.

This seems benign and we’ve been doing it since we were kids. Eat this good food (broccoli) and then you’ll get this bad food (dessert). The problem is that as grown up girls, we’re still doing it. We’ve got the foods that we deem good, typically the ones on our diet, and foods we deem as bad, AKA the treats and the cheats.

Again this might sound benign but good and bad are such loaded words! And they quickly become tied to our behavior and worth.

We think of ourselves as good or bad depending on the foods we’re eating.

salad and burger

When we try to avoid dessert we say, ‘Oh no thanks, I’m being good.” When we indulge we say, “Well OK, I’ll have this as a treat.” Or “don’t tell Dr Brooke but I’m “cheating on my plan!” I “ate the bad thing” quickly turns into – or at least feels like – I was bad. I need to be good. I’ll be good tomorrow. I am not good unless I eat a certain way.

There is so much drama in doing it this way – so it makes for good TV 🙂 Like this all too accurate clip with Amy Schumer:

As a serial dieter for years, it has taken me a long time to get out of this mentality and honestly, I’ve struggled to find an accurate, but less loaded, way to talk about this with my patients.

I mean let’s be honest, there are foods that work better for us when it comes to losing weight than others.

We do need a category, a way to talk about the foods we should eat more of and those we should eat less of, but words like good, bad, cheat and treat aren’t the best because they imply worth and value – and after all, it’s just food.

I hate the good/bad idea because this categorization of food keeps us hooked into emotional eating. It’s one more manifestation of too much emotion and meaning being tied up in to food. My friend and fellow GGS Advisory Board member Jessie is fond of the hashtag #itsjustfood and I love it….but that’s not how we feel most of the time is it? Part of the problem is that when we feel bad – about our food choices or whatever else – it’s really hard to do good, to do better.

We eat the bad food, we feel bad and guilty, we eat some more bad food and we struggle to right the ship again because the guilt is such an anchor to those bad feelings. This way of thinking does not work because it feeds into exactly the thing you’re trying to avoid: eating more foods that don’t work for you. Let go of the good food and bad food/treats and cheats idea.

Try on this whole new way to think about food that is empowering and leaves out the emotion and drama: food that works for you, food that doesn’t work well for you and food that does not work for you.

Food That Works For You.

Food that makes it easier to do better. Food that doesn’t increase your appetite, gives you even energy, doesn’t ramp up cravings, doesn’t make your tummy hurt or your face breakout, food that doesn’t worsen joint pain or hinder your sleep. These are foods that work for you. Eat more of them. Let them take up space in your diet. They serve you and effortlessly crowd out other foods, that don’t work as well for you. #letitbeeasy

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For most of you veggies (at least most, veggies – we all have our own unique sensitivities), lean proteins and water are foods that work for you. Then you’ll have your unique tolerance and balancing act with certain types of carbs and certain healthy fats. Even foods you used to deem as bad may actually work for you.

For example, you may have always thought sugar = bad, but if a square or two of dark chocolate keeps your cravings at bay, your mindset strong, willpower on high and keeps you out of a pint of ice cream after too many days of feeling deprived, then that girlfriend is a food that works for you.

Foods That Don’t Work Well For You.

These are the mid-range foods that aren’t your best choice but they don’t totally derail you and can work for convenience or as a BETTER option when your best choices aren’t available.

They may also be foods that in moderation keep you on track, keep you eating overall more foods that do work for you.

For me this is a Quest bar. I don’t do super well with dairy, at least not in a high dose or every day, but if I have a sweet craving these totally do the trick. Sheep’s or goat’s milk cheese is another food that works OK, but not great for me. It’s way better choice than cow’s milk cheese for me and sometimes eating a salad with a little goat cheese sounds much more appetizing than without it and if I can make this small accommodation I’ll eat the salad – and be happy about it.

Another example from my metabolism is ice cream. Again dairy, but also sugar. This combo of fat, sugar and a food I’m sensitive to brings on breakouts like no body’s business.  The inflammation and insulin surge from the fat+sugar combo here makes me breakout terribly. I have to really think about the cost of having this food that doesn’t work so well for me. Will I choose it sometimes, yeah – but not that often. It is only in a time when I’m somewhere with a very special offering and I know the price I will pay, I make my choice and own it.

Foods That Do Not Work For You.

These foods are those that make you feel like garbage (cranky, tired, puffy, bloated),  increase your appetite or cravings, or tank you energy.

Great examples for many of you (including me) are sugar, alcohol, gluten or any food you know makes you feel yucky in some way.

These foods can even have a spill over effect well past the meal when you ate them. Sugar and gluten both do this for me. If I overdo sugar then pretty soon I’m wanting chocolate for breakfast as it puts my cravings on full tilt really easy (thanks to PCOS and insulin resistance).

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Gluten, same. I avoid gluten at all costs these days because it makes me immediately tired to the point I just have to sleep (therefore ruins the rest of the day completely) and makes me utterly and totally depressed. I not only feel depressed but completely fatalistic like every day for the rest of my life will feel like this. It’s terrible and there just isn’t anything in the world that tastes good enough for me to feel like this for 3-4 days.

It also makes my gums bleed almost instantly and that totally freaks me out about what’s happening to the rest of my digestive tract! Although it causes me zero digestive symptoms, I get puffy and breakout a little too. So this is just a food that doesn’t work for me. Plain and simple.

It’s a bummer sometimes but I’m less inclined to flirt with the idea when I’m not feeling restricted or like it’s a treat, but rather that it just does not work for me.

When we start to think of food this way it’s a complete mindset shift into thinking “what can this food do for me?”

i.e. give me energy, level my mood, fuel me, nourish me. What’s the upside rather than is it good. You also will be thinking about the downside, but not whether or not you’re a bad girl if you eat it.

This “does it work for me?” idea moves us away from the good- bad thinking and takes one more layer out of emotional eating, keeps us on track more easily and takes the food drama out of it.

How Do You Know What’s What For You?

Sometimes you just know – even if you don’t like the answer. This is me and sugar. It’s just the way it is. I can take a little, but not much before my cravings come on full force. Once I’m there I have a much harder time with appetite, cravings, my face is all puffy and broken out – and of course my weight creeps up easily.

Figuring out what foods do and don’t work for you is a time to get really honest with yourself.

It feels hard at first but it’s completely empowering and puts you totally in control. So go there. Take a look at what that guilt is about – is it arbitrary dieting BS or do you really feel bad in someway when you eat that?

It’s not that you’ll never have these foods again, but when you’re faced with figuring out how often you can have them you’ll be armed with this new framework and can more easily make choices that make you feel good, that nourish you. They allow you to keep doing better vs. getting derailed.

If you really aren’t sure what foods don’t work for you consider food sensitivity testing or an elimination diet – or by all means get some guidance.

Here’s to happy, effortless, low drama eating. #foodthatworks #foodthatworksforyou

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